Head of Aphrodite or Julio Claudian Princess
Period: 1st century A.D.
Dimensions: H. 2.3 cm
Ex- US private collection, New York; Sotheby’s New York, 7 December 2001, n. 86.
Published : Sigilli imperiali, capolavori della glittica antica, Exhibition Catalogue of the Banca della Svizzera Italiana, Padova, 2007, n. 46.
Broken at an angle to the neck, cut into a tiny fragment of perfectly polished chalcedony, translucent in appearance and white with bluish reflections.
This Head of Aphrodite or Julio Claudian Princess, which is broken at an angle to the neck, was cut into a tiny fragment of perfectly polished chalcedony, translucent in appearance and white with bluish reflections. It belonged either to a small bust or to a complete sculpture depicting a woman of undoubtedly juvenile age.
The head is slightly turned to the left: its face is characterized by fine harmonious lines, and strongly idealized. Despite the miniature size of the sculpture, the shapes are well modeled both in the area of the eyes and close to the nose and mouth. The young woman wears a semicircular diadem which characterizes her as an important figure, that is, as a divinity or as a member of the wealthiest classes of contemporary society.
The identification of this work is not certain: its features and attitude could suggest a goddess, especially Aphrodite / Venus, but the type of hairstyle rather elaborate it carries (central stripe, fringe wrapped and folded , A bun on the neck, a great tiara) was also in fashion at the beginning of the imperial age with certain women of the Julio-Claudian dynasty: it could thus be the idealized portrait of a princess or even an empress of that period. Her features and slender and elegant face recall especially those of Livia, the wife of Augustus.
On the portraits of Livia and the Julio-Claudian princesses:
BOSCHUNG D., Die Bildnistypen der julisch-claudischen Kaiserfamilie: ein kritischer Forschungsbericht, in Journal of Roman Archeology 6, 1993, pp. 45-47.
WINKER R., Livia Octavia Julia, Porträts und Darstellungen, Louvain, 1995, p. 44 ff., N. 16, n. 36.
On the iconography of Aphrodite:
Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), vol. II, Zurich-Munich, 1984, p. 2ss., S.v. Aphrodite.